November 1, 2018

Here’s What the Ideal Onboarding Process Looks Like:


Onboarding, at its most basic, is the gathering and auditing of new employee information — but it should be so much more. Aside from gathering data, onboarding is your chance to introduce your company’s mission, culture, and values to your new hire.

This step is not to be overlooked. In fact, outside of gathering basic information, the No. 1 purpose of onboarding should be to acclimate your new employee to your company’s why and engage them so they remain excited to work for you.

Yet so many companies overcomplicate onboarding, thereby creating knowledge gaps for HR and missing the chance to make employees feel welcome from day one.

Done poorly, onboarding negatively affects your employee and your organization.

The process itself should be automated, repeatable, compliant, and scalable. To accomplish this effectively, you should be involved before the employee comes on board, preferably via a recruiting platform that allows HR to manage the process.

Managing onboarding effectively goes beyond creating good vibes between the employee and your company; it should move the new hire quickly to substantive job training and work, expediting integration into the company so they can contribute.

Let’s look at an example involving an employee named Tamara to see how onboarding should work. In her story, look for areas where your organization can improve.

Tamara’s Onboarding Experience

Tamara receives a job offer from a private college, along with a letter in the mail and a follow-up phone call from her new manager. Tamara doesn’t start for two weeks, but HR sends her login information so she can access the HR platform ahead of time.

From there, Tamara electronically completes preliminary documents and performs basic tasks, such as verifying her address and tax withholding information. She fills out her direct deposit information, W-4, handbook receipt, and non-compete agreement.

Next, Tamara uses resources on the HR platform to begin organizational orientation. She learns about the company mission and culture, and she watches short introduction videos from the CEO, HR manager, and other departmental managers.

After Tamara completes orientation, she is prompted to delve into details about benefits — not through stacks of paper, but via modules or videos in the platform. She learns about the amazing benefits, like maternity leave, sabbaticals, 401(k) matching, retirement planning, wellness programs, life insurance, disability, paid time off (PTO), and more. The communications are designed to help Tamara understand all the benefits and, through that understanding, increase her appreciation for her new job.

With benefits background in hand, Tamara moves on to learning about various HR systems, such as how to clock in and out, request vacation time, and more.

Rhamy-Alejeal_People-Processes_KindleCVROn Tamara’s first day of work, she feels comfortable and knows faces, not just names and job titles. She also feels prepared, as she has thoroughly reviewed policies and already received training on basic HR systems within the organization before arriving.

On her first day, Tamara has a 30-minute introductory call with the HR director. Because her paperwork was already completed, it has been automatically processed and sent to vendors, synced with payroll, and updated in timekeeping. The purpose of this meeting is purely to establish the relationship, answer questions, and help Tamara feel comfortable coming to HR with any problems she may have.

From there, Tamara spends the rest of her day acclimating to the company culture. She is introduced to the team, shadows employees, and goes to lunch with her coworkers.

The next day, she moves into the task-specific training for her new job.

With this process, there is no back-and-forth for missing or incorrect info, nor any “just sign it” forms Tamara doesn’t get a chance to read. Additionally, the info Tamara read during onboarding is still available in her HR portal. If she needs to review it or has questions, she can access it easily.

An Ounce of Prevention

Significant time, labor, and investment is required to front-load an onboarding system with the automation and communication tools that improved Tamara’s experience. Many leaders would look at Tamara’s onboarding and respond with something like, “There is no way I could set up something like that. I just don’t have the time!”

If that’s your response, I would say: “It sounds like you don’t have the time not to.”

Once an onboarding system is in place, you have a scalable process that sparks an employee’s love of the organization, heads off a stream of questions down the road, and creates an environment where employees know they can come to you for additional help.

Your HR team need only input basic information from the application, if that, and the system automates the rest. You don’t have to do anything more than that. In fact, you shouldn’t do more if you want to act as a force multiplier in your company. Because automated systems are more efficient, leaders get to spend their time on prevention. They can focus on developing employees and improving the system.

Ultimately, a well-designed onboarding process means less work for HR, not more.

This is an edited excerpt from People Processes: How Your People Can Be Your Organization’s Competitive Advantage by Rhamy Alejeal.

Rhamy Alejeal is the author of People Processes.

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Rhamy Alejeal is the author of "People Processes." He and his wife, Elizabeth, are the owners of Poplar Financial, a provider of integrated, automated HR processes. Rhamy and his team work with hundreds of companies across the United States, helping them learn how to stop pushing paper and start prioritizing people. In addition, Rhamy serves on the Federal Reserve's Industry Council on Healthcare, providing insights into employer costs and how they affect businesses in today's marketplace. He holds a bachelor's degree in financial economics and an MBA with a focus on economics.